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Secret Restaurant Equipment that Won the 2016 NRA Kitchen Innovations®Awards – Part 1 of 3

Would you invent a product, win an award and then not tell anyone? It happened this year for a few manufacturers of restaurant equipment. If you are in the food biz, you already know the must-see event of the year is the National Restaurant Association Restaurant, Hotel-Motel Show, held annually in Chicago at McCormick Place. What you may not know is they award companies for innovative equipment and products that help foodservice operations run smoother or make life a bit easier for the men and women behind the stoves, bars and service desks.

What’s bizarre is that a few of these products are hard to find or are absent from the company’s website! Find out which ones are hiding their innovations like a poker player with four aces.

This year there were 23 winners (Manitowoc and Vulcan won twice). I am breaking the list down into three separate blog posts by category:

  • Heating or Cooking Equipment
  • Freezing and Refrigeration
  • Safety, Ergonomics and Sanitation (and anything else that doesn’t heat or cool food).

Here is blog one of three with the winners of the 2016 NRA Kitchen Innovations® Awards for Innovative restaurant cooking equipment, in alphabetical order. You will find links to the equipment page on the company websites if I could find them.

Blodgett Corporation

Hoodini Ventless Hood System for Oven

Hoodini – Ventless Hood System for Ovens

Here is an excellent idea for any restaurant that needs an extra oven without having to engineer a hood system. Called the “Hoodini” it is a ventless hood system that attaches directly to the top of the Blodgett Mini Combi 6 and 10 pan ovens.

The innovative closed, recirculating system

It removes steam, smoke and fumes by recirculating the oven air, condensing the smoke particles which flush straight into the drain without smoke and fumes entering the cooking area. Because the oven/hood system is vent-less, users can place the oven just about anywhere, freeing up valuable kitchen floor space. They have an excellent motion graphic that explains the process on their website. Click the links above.

Franke Coffee Systems North America

A600 Espresso Machine
A600 Espresso Machine

A600 Espresso Machine– Makes consecutive drink orders automatically

The Franke A600 Espresso Machine is made in Switzerland and has a 51-second explainer video to help you see the features. Unfortunately, the tagline is “the quality is in the details” but you won’t find many details in this highly stylized video.

The big selling point is a programmable touch screen where an employee or a customer can choose from a variety of coffee beverages and sizes. The FoamMaster® A600 is fully automatic and can make multiple coffee drinks in sequential order.

It uses an HACCP-compliant CARTRIDGE SYSTEM cleaning concept.

Hestan Commercial

Hestan-CircuFlame Sealed Burner

CircuFlame Sealed Burner– Better temperature control for gas burners

The CircuFlame sealed burner solves a problem that chefs are experiencing cooking with gas, not enough control.

It works using a dual-flow valve technology to feed two chambers. The burner can blast heat as high as 30,000 BTU/hour and as low as 1,500 BTU/hour for poaching and simmering for an impressive 20:1 ratio and greater control over cooking temperatures. It is unclear from their website whether they sell this burner separately, or it is only part of their line of stoves.

Manitowoc Foodservice

Manitowoc-Merrychef® eikon® e2s

Merrychef® eikon® e2s– It is a microwave and a convection oven

This high-speed convection/microwave oven maximizes the inside cavity with minimum space (Jargon Alert! They call it “cavity-to-footprint ratio”).

What is new is the fast heating and cool down times due to the advanced placement of the magnetrons and use of convection air techniques. The eikon® e2s stood out for being energy efficient, quiet and easy to clean.

It is available with “Classic” stainless steel finish and traditional Merrychef design or as “Trend” with the color-coded exterior, rounded edges and smallware storage rack on the top.

Manitowoc Foodservice

Manitowoc-Multiplex® N2Fusion™ Beverage System

Multiplex® N2Fusion™ Beverage System– Foam up your coffee drinks

Difficult to Find On Website

Want to put a creamy head on your coffee like beer? Use nitrogen. The N2Fusion™ Beverage system turns your barista into a bartender by converting your boring cup of joe into a creamy mug of java luxury.

Here’s what they say. “Nitrogenized coffee delivers an effervescent consumer experience that incorporates a thick creamy foam head to enhance the taste profile and is a hot new trend for coffee enthusiasts.” The unique system lets the user add nitrogen to a beverage at the point of dispense, on demand. The description says, “The beverage stores in a refrigerated base” but does not explain the details.

It was not easy to find this item on their website so click on the link above for pictures and specs. You will have to ask for a demo to see how it works as there was no video about this product on their site.


Kitchen Management System – Monitor up to 30 ovens at once

If you ever need to control 30 ovens from one location, this would be the software for you. There is not much detail on the website, but you can order more information from their “Request of infomaterial” page.

Here is their description:

“Moving ahead in remote communications, the KitchenManagement System lets operators manage and control up to 30 RATIONAL combi ovens from a central computer. Monitor and control appliances through a Windows virtual control panel, allowing for menu updates, cooking profile changes, HACCP documentation delivery, and power control.”

Star Manufacturing International Inc.

Star-Rolling Tortilla Warmer

Rolling Tortilla Warmer – Looks like a good idea, if you can find it.

Item Not Found On Website

Perfect for high volume restaurants or food trucks because it requires no hood, this little warmer can heat up tortillas, flatbreads or pita bread to 160 degrees in seconds. Completely portable, the rolling Tortilla Warmer uses a heated drum and radiant elements using standard 120v outlets and only 12 amps of power.

Instead, you have to download the PDF of their price list and look on page 31 to get the information.

Taylor® Company

Advanced Grill Controls – So advanced, you better call the company

Item Not Found On Website

From a press release, I learned that the controls are part of the Taylor Crown Grill, but I had to copy the description from the NRA website because I could not find more information about this on Taylor’s site.

“Taylor’s newly enhanced grill software features an intuitive touch screen interface that expands functionality and offers energy-savings standby mode. The advanced software allows for easy menu flexibility and future expansion. The four-flat time mode allows the operator cook four different items within the same zone – no need for a remote timer.”


Vulcan-ABC7 Combi Oven Steamer

ABC7 Combi Oven Steamer– Only three controls does it all

Vulcan’s ABC7 Combi Oven Steamer uses only three controls temperature, time and humidity. Very simple. The humidity changes automatically with the temperature setting, but you can change it manually. Auto-reversing fan ensures uniform cooking temperature at every position within the oven.

You can even “try the controls” on your computer with a little app built into their site.

To see a 2:48-minute explainer video, click here.


Low Water Energy (LWE) Steamer

Low Water Energy (LWE) Steamer– Perfect for water restricted areas

Vulcan’s LWE steamer is a commercial counter-top steamer that uses 90% less water and 50% less electricity than comparably sized units. It is the first Energy Star® Certified steamer, and they offer two capacities, either three or five 12″ x 20″ x 2 ½ ” pans.

Check out their 2:30-minute video here..

WP Bakery Group USA

ITES Oven– Baked goods from frozen in only 8 minutes

This German designed oven is perfect for any on-demand baking need. It uses a patent-pending modification of infrared heating elements that alter the IR wavelengths

WP Bakery-ITES Oven

which bake from the inside out and outside in simultaneously while retaining internal moisture.

It is designed to bake partially baked or raw frozen bread items such as pizza slices, sausage rolls and pretzels. A typically cooking time is only 8 minutes compared to 35 or 45 minutes in a regular oven.


We are Bill and Norlela Grover, two nosey copywriters interested in the world of foodservice, customer service and how things work. If you need writing for your business we are for hire and always there when you need us. Our email is

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